This past weekend, I spent some time visiting social spaces where I haven’t “hung out” in some time. I poked around to see what I had been missing in groups and forums I used to be a regular participant in, to see what was still worth while, and what I could safely put in the “Well, that was nice for a while, but…” pile, things that no longer met my current goals and trajectory.
I started thinking about the concept we call “personal branding” and what it was worth. Can it be transferred to others? Does it rub off on others? How does it work in the overall hierarchy of media and marketing?
Let’s take something silly, like this season’s Biggest Loser. The two main trainers who have been with the show for years are getting ready to leave and explore their own projects, so they are transitioning in two new trainers, and the producers hope we will like and appreciate these two new and different people as much as we love Jillian and Bob. Will it work? Will the results of the contestants matter the most, or the opinion of the contestants, or how the show is edited to portray these folks as experts and go getters?
From the tech world, when you have a great founder of a company who has a distinct personality, does this become one of the main assets of the company? For example, ask yourself how Microsoft has changed (if you think it has) since Bill Gates left to run his foundation? Will Facebook be the same without Mark Zuckerberg? How will Apple change if Steve Jobs remains on leave for health reasons?
Every company struggles with this transition from being a pet project of the founder, to becoming a big, living and breathing entity of its own. Corporations, are by law, essentially straw people. They are made up of their owners, directors, employees and more to make it a living, breathing thing, the same way we’re dependent upon our organs for functioning, yet they only make up a portion of who we are in the aggregate.
When companies merge, there’s always a question about the corporate culture and whether or not the personality of the absorbed company will remain, or how it will get along with the bigger company’s culture. Will the new organ be rejected, or will it be gladly incorporated into the whole? Is it like having multiple personality disorders? Which personality will become the major and controlling one? How will that affect everyone participating in the organization?
As we strive to help businesses become more human and relatable to us, how do we communicate these corporate values and culture in a way that they transcend any individual in the boardroom? Can we lend our personal lustre to other brands and businesses? Does success depend on the people in charge alone? Does affiliation with success make us successful n turn, or do we rise and fall on our own merit alone?
You can even take this into political space, and ask whether the perception of Americans changes with who’s in the White House and what policy they choose, regardless if we vehemently agree or disagree with that policy personally?
I don’t have any real answers to these questions, but I think they’re some of the more interesting ones we’ll be struggling with the next few years. As we become more connected, how much do our transparent affiliations or lack thereof raise or lower our own personal profiles?
What do you think?